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good wednesday morning. here is what is coming up on "early today." a massive weather front causes temperatures to plunge as much as 40 degrees and parts of the country are measuring snow in feet, not inches. signs that the engineer at the controls of the deadly train derailment nodded off just before the wreck. and at-risk pensions are extremely concerned about a judge's approval of detroit's bankruptcy. plus, the piano man becomes artist in residence at the world's most famous arena. which state has the most foul-mouthed residents.
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and for the right price, this batman golf cart could be yours. "early today" starts right now. good morning. i'm betty nguyen. the nation's second largest commuter rail line should be mostly back online this morning. lawyers and union reps for the train's engineer william recognize rockefeller now tell nbc news he nodded off at the switch. rockefeller told police he, quote, zoned out. all this as the metro train was barreling down the tracks out of a 70-mile-per-hour zone and into an area cleared for nearly half that speed. the train was going 82 miles per hour nearly triple the speed limit. by the time the engineer slammed on the brakes it was too late. rockefeller has been described as having a stellar record. his lawyer knows he changed his work schedule to an earlier start time of 5:00 a.m. just two weeks prior to the accident.
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>> there is every indication that he would have had time to get full restorative sleep. there is no indication that the brake systems were not functioning properly. >> a spokesperson says some metro north trains have systems that brake in the case of distracted drivers but the train that derailed does not have that equipment or that technology. it might feel like february where you are or it is about to. a winter storm is making its way east through the western half of the u.s. and is bringing bitter temperatures. in some cases, as much as 40 degrees below normal. parts of colorado are expecting up to 18 inches of snow by thursday, a whopping 30 inches of snow is reported at idaho's saddle mountain. right now, parts of at least ten states are under winter storm warnings, including the dakotas,
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where windchills of negative 40 degrees are expected by the weekend. forecasters say the storm is expected to spread as far south as texas by the weekend and then turn east. nbc meteorologist bill karins will have our full forecast in a few minutes. in the meantime, though, $18 billion in the red. the city of detroit gets the go ahead to file for bankruptcy. and the implications of this largest public bankruptcy in u.s. history are far and wide. in his ruling tuesday, federal judge steven rhodes said, quote, this once city cannot pay its debts. it is insolvent." it is not just detroit. chicago's credit rating is downgraded for a $19 billion pension short fall. and it's a problem for other states as well.
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health care obligations. at 45% illinois is the worst in the nation. analysts say cash-strapped cities and states gave pension benefits instead of pay raises. >> money that you have to pay later seems a lot cheaper than money you have to pay today. president obama is getting back on the offensive, telling americans is working better than ever. the president saying the website is vastly improved and that obama care is here to stay. that reassurance comes as the president is under renewed pressure to hold people accountable for the botched rollout. >> do not let the initial problems with the website discourage you because it is working better now and it's just going to keep on working better over time. every day, i check to make sure that it's working better. >> in the meantime, a treasury
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department watchdog is noting potential problems come tax season. the inspector general says existing irs systems do not have the capability to detect fraud when it comes to the subsidies set up to help people buy insurance in the form of tax credits. administration officials say the irs aggressively safeguards its systems to combat fraud and that the health care system is no exception. the results of actor paul walker's autopsy are expected to be released today. he and his friend were killed in a fiery and tragic car crash moments after this photo was taken of the "fast and furious" actor stepping into a 2005 red porsche. the autopsy would confirm it. investigators they they don't
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believe they were racing but speed is an issue of the crash. the production of "fast and furious" is on hold. we should mention universal pictures shares the same parent company as this network. the piano man has a few more songs to play on that baby grand. billy joel will take up a monthly residence at madison square garden as the venue's first-ever music franchise. the legendary musician will play concert there once a month beginning january 14th and continuing indefinitely. joel's new new york state of mind makes residency at the garden even more of a special experience. >> i'm getting a lot of credit here for how good i'm supposed to be. but i think a good deal of it is from the audience that comes to the garden. it's a great audience.
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if you have a great audience, you usually give a better show. >> new york governor andrew cuomo was on hand for the announcement. current dates are set through may. in the christmas spirit, house speaker john boehner was joined by a local first grader to switch on the luminous 88-foot tall tree on the west lawn last night. and here in new york tonight is the lighting of the christmas tree at rockefeller center. bill is there where the star-studded ceremony will kick off. bill, good morning. looks like a lovely day for a celebration. >> amazingly warm on the east coast. can you believe, three weeks from now, kids will be opening up their presents from santa. late thanksgiving really messed things up. we had a heavy snow event taking place in northern minnesota. look at the windchills. it's snowing in north dakota and windchills are minus 14. more snow headed for minneapolis. as far as the temperatures go,
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extremely cold air is spilling through this storm through the northern rockies, through colorado and now all that cold air is moving down the west coast from very chilly temperatures. 24, 26 in medford. extremely cold in areas of utah. it's not going to warm up much during the day today. vegas at 38 degrees. we're going to see some record-low temperatures in the next couple of days through the inner mountain west and west coast. we're worried about some of the crop there is and the freeze in california. today a high of 35. that's it. that's all we can do in seattle. 61 in l.a. cool tem 31. look how cold it is in yakima today. betty, coming back later, we'll talk about the big show
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tonight on nbc and all the musical guests. it's going to be a blast out here and the weather so far, so good. >> not bad at all. i can't wait. thank you, bill. talk to you soon. so the most foul-mouthed state in the union, guess what it is. plus, vice president biden takes on serious diplomacy with china. and is this the future of inexpensive space exploration? you're watching "early today."
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welcome back, everybody. vice president joe biden was in tokyo tuesday to show support for japan. in the wake of china's new air defense zone. the move by china to control international air space has raised tensions between the two countries. while the united states is standing by japan over the matter, biden stopped short of ordering beijing to remove. >> we are deeply concerned by the attempt to unilaterally change the status quo in the east china sea. >> the vice president arrived in
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beijing early this morning, where he plans to meet with the president. it seems that the house and the senate will agree on a bill to ban manufacturing plastic firearms. the house expanded the bill for two years and the house is expected to do the same when it returns. two sky divers in arizona have been killed in a mid air collision. witnesses say the two divers had open parachutes when they ran into each other causing them to fall about 250 feet. a third sky diver was taken to a nearby hospital. space-x launched into space on tuesday after two previous delays. the launch also marked space-x's third launch. and ohioans, you may not like this last story. ohioans i guess is how you say it. according to a survey of 600,000 phone calls people in ohio cursed more than anyone else in the country. potty mouth. maryland and new jersey took
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second place while people in washington state were least likely to curse. turning to business. this girl, she is on fire. sophia vergara's paycheck makes her the highest paid actor, male or female, on television. she's also taking in big bucks for endorsements. she earned about $6 million more than runner-up, ashton kutcher. batman vehicle of choice comes with four cup holders, ipad stand, lights, side mirrors, leather seats, batman logo on the steering column and secret kill switch as an anti-theft device. what, batman doesn't come with it? just ahead, the world's
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largest edible house. we have it for you. what happens when two legends collide? ron burgundy and peyton manning. the magic is next.
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well, you know they say everything is bigger in texas, and that is where the texas a & m traditions club built the world's largest gingerbread house, verified by guinness.
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house made with thousands of pounds of butter, sugar and eggs and topped off with hard candy. the house is open to the public through december 4th. just don't take a bite out of it. in boston the shot of the night. the celtics avery bradley grabbed an air ball. as he is falling out of bounds he put up a shot over the backboard and it goes in. boston beat milwaukee 108-100. a double overtime thriller. orlando at philadelphia. as the magic victor had his first triple-double, 10 rebounds and 10 assists and the 76ers michael carter williams also got his first triple-double and made a driving basket in the second overtime for a 126-125 win. it was the first time in nba history two rookies had triple-doubles in the same game.
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in hockey a fight in chicago. they drop the gloves and went at it. fists flying. officials try to step in, but got punched themselves. the stars edge out the blackhawks 4-3. revealed in a dazzling star-studded event in brazil, it's named bazooka and will be used in world cup matches next june and july. center fielder jacoby ellsbury has signed with the red sox -- their biggest rival, that is, the new york yankees, the deal is for seven years and a whopping $153 million. and will ferrell's ron burgundy talks to peyton manning expressing surprise that he has been so successful. >> yet you have done it all without a mustache. you're running around out there
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and, to be honest with you, you look like a succulent baby lamb, okay? >> to tell you the truth, i never had much of a desire to grow any facial hair. i think i managed to play quarterback okay without a mustache. eli tried to grow one without much success, i have to say. >> i saw that. it did not look good. >> announcer: yea. >> yeah, he's best without one. ron might want to think about that, too. should air travelers be given a fast pass to get through security.
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welcome back to "early today." tonight is the big night when this beautiful tree will be lit. this is like a comparison of when it started in the 1930s. look at this tree. this was 1937 toward the end of the depression there. it's changed a lot. you can see santa at the bottom of the tree. this has become an even bigger spectacle as the years have gone on. forecast always critical. this year is warm, mild. 50 degrees, cloudy skies. light wind. you couldn't ask for anything better. when can you watch it? here on nbc, 8:00, 7:00 central. the stars list is impressive, mary blige, mariah carey, jewel. you can watch them all tonight here on nbc. quite the lineup. >> that is a party. all right. thanks, bill. in entertainment, steve
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buccemi shared some thoughts about james gandolfini. >> jimmy was very patient and gracious with me. the more i worked with him the more relaxed we both became. to be accepted by jimmy as a director was the best feeling in the world. katy perry named the unicef ambassador. woody allen will be not accepting his award at the oscars. he is, instead, sending diane ke keaton to accept it on his behalf. reach out worldwide. the movie will be available on december 10th. apparently, angels can be
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naughty and nice. the victoria secrets angels lip synced by singing "i knew you were trouble" by taylor swift. nathalie portman had quite the stunt double for her final kissing scene. so he brought in his wife to take on the role. with the help of wigs, costumes and camera angles she looks just like portman. that's why the kiss is so passionate. if more actors and actresses did this, maybe hollywood marriages would stay together longer. >> maybe his wife didn't want him doing it. >> maybe. they did a great job.
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leading the news on, newtown to release 911 calls. last week a judge ordered them released. in the l.a. times tsa starts precheck, faster airport screening. starting today travelers can get the chance to go through security without removing shoes, belts and can lap tops in their bags. staff of britain's guardian newspaper could face terrorism charges for the edward snowden leaks. police are considering an
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investigation. some lawmakers accuse the editor of helping terrorists by making top secret information public. the guardian is among several sources that helped to leak information from edward snowden. and supreme court ruling on a frequent flyer lawsuit is accepted in june. justices heard arguments from a rabbi who said his elite status was revoked for 24 complaints in a seven-month period. check out the latest stunt by improv everywhere. we triple dog dare you. the comedy troupe has take then scene from the holiday classic "a christmas story" right into a new york city subway. ew. the reenactment used a fake tongue with a magnet inside. you may remember in the flick, he was dared to stick his tongue
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to a frozen pole. he learned the hard way. >> thank goodness it was a fake tongue. >> it doesn't matter. >> that visual. time for a look ahead and a look back. the first lady will show off the christmas tree today. as she did last year, michelle obama will welcome children of military families to see the tree and their holiday decorations. on this day in 1991 a bankrupt u.s. airlines halted prayings as seen on nbc news. >> the troubled airline industry suffered another death in the family. pan american airlines shut down after more than six decades of service. happy birthday to tyra banks. she is 40. jay-z turns 44 and jeff bridges is 64. keep it here for more news, weather and sports. i'm betty nguyen. thank you for watching "early
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good morning, everyone, it's 4:30. >> breaking news is in san jose this morning where crews are on the scene of a fire at a mobile home park. happening at the mobile home park near monterey and blossom hill road. just arrived on the scene, what can you tell us? >> that fire is out. a fire was in that double wide home as you can see right there. it started after 2:00 this morning. fire department had it out within 45 minutes. within the past 30 minutes or so, the inside of that space has cooled down enough for firefighters and investigators to get inside to do two things. one, to verify that the man, an elderly man who lives here was not inside at the time.
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